Kyle Dawson, the Wild Things’ broadcaster, had a broom at the ballpark Sunday night. Washington made sure he got to use it.
The Wild Things completed a sweep of their six-game homestand by defeating the Tri-City ValleyCats, 5-2.
The win extended the Wild Things’ winning streak to a season-high seven games. Washington has won six straight at home and 15 of the last 17 played at Wild Things Park.
And during their second six-game homestand sweep of the season, the Wild Things showed that they can win in a variety of ways. They won with a shutout to open the homestand, had two games in which they hit four home runs, had a come-from-behind victory and won by protecting a lead for the final six innings.
“If you want to be a playoff team,” Washington manager Tom Vaeth said, “then you have to be able to win in different ways. If you’re a home run team, one that relies on the longball, and that dries up, then things can go downhill in a hurry.
“In this homestand, we pitched it, we came back to win, we found ways to win, we swung the bat early and won. The whole homestand we played great defense. Our lineup is deep right now.”
Washington, which is a season-high four games over .500 at 31-27, trails first-place Sussex County by 4½ games in the Northeast Division. The Wild Things begin a four-game series at Sussex County Tuesday evening with a doubleheader.
Because the Frontier League had to revise its original schedule, the result of the pandemic causing the league to shrink from 14 teams to 12 this year, Washington and Sussex County will play only nine times, and all nine will be played in Augusta, New Jersey.
“It’s a big series,” Vaeth confirmed. “Being the road team – and we don’t get to play them at home – we have to at least split. We’re going to do everything we can to keep this machine rolling.”
In its latest win, Washington did all of its scoring in two innings – the second and third – and protected a lead the rest of the way.
In the second, with rain falling, Hector Roa drew a leadoff walk off Tri-City starter Daniel Kreuzer (2-3). That’s when Kreuzer complained about his footing and the turf mound being slick. ValleyCats manager Pete Incaviglia then protested the game, apparently because Kwitzer was not permitted to switch to metal spikes because of the field rules that prohibit metal at Wild Things Park.
After the delay, Washington catcher Trevor Casanova dunked a broken-bat double down the right-field line. Roa, who was running on the pitch, scored from first base to give the Wild Things a 1-0 lead.
Casanova had a three-hit day and drove in two runs, raising his batting average to .298.
“We can win a lot of different ways,” Casanova said. “The big thing is keeping runs off the board because we can hit the longball, we can steal bags …”
Tri-City tied it at 2-2 in the third. Luis Roman and Chris Kwitzer, the bottom two hitters in the ValleyCats’ lineup, hit singles off Washington starter Daren Osby (3-3), who threw a complete-game shutout against New Jersey on Tuesday. After two outs, Denis Phipps lined a single off the glove of Wild Things third baseman Joe Campagna, scoring Roman. Brad Zunica followed with an RBI single that made the score 2-2, but that was all the scoring for Tri-City.
The ValleyCats had plenty of opportunities as they had at least one baserunner in every inning except the first and ninth.
In the Washington third, newcomer Tristan Peterson, Scotty Dubrule and Bralin Jackson hit consecutive singles to load the bases. With the Tri-City infield drawn in, Grant Heyman hit a chopper that went under the glove of second baseman Luis Roman and two runs scored. Casanova came through again with an RBI single that made it 5-2.
Washington’s pitchers made the score stand. Osby pitched five innings, followed by Jesus Balaguer for two, James Meeker for one and Zack Strecker pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 13th save, setting up the key series at Sussex County.
“All the series are big now,” Casanova said. “You have to play every series like it could be your last. If you want to make the playoffs, then every series is big from here on out.”
Washington made several roster moves over the weekend. Catcher-first baseman Cody Erickson was traded to Southern Illinois in exchange for a player to be named. Starting pitcher Keven Pimentel was placed on the disabled list retroactive to July 30, and Peterson, a righthanded-hitting first baseman and catcher was signed. Peterson (6-2, 225) batted .289 with seven home runs this spring for Washington State and was honorable mention All-Pac-12 Conference.